Editorials

Search for library director should have been visible

We like Kyle Cox and expect that he will be energetic and thoughtful in his new post at the head of the Mid-Columbia library system.

In fact, we could write a whole editorial lauding why we think he's a great choice.

He is educated and experienced. He has two bachelor's degrees and is finishing his second master's, as well. He has demonstrated a thirst for continual knowledge and self-improvement -- the ideal representation of what libraries are all about.

Also, he has been vigilant and fiscally responsible as the interim director.

Cox is the driver behind the district's current move to make libraries more accessible by shifting library hours to be open when it's convenient for patrons, rather than when it's convenient for librarians.

And he's done it at no increased cost.

It's a good idea and the price tag is right.

But no matter how good Cox proves to be as library director, we can't see how making the selection inside a black box helped build community confidence.

Decisions concerning taxpayer money ought to be made in the open, where the taxpayer can see what they are buying.

Eight people applied for this position. Seven of those are unidentified. Why don't we know who the other candidates are?

At a minimum, the three finalists should have been willing to undergo public scrutiny.

Celina Bishop, the library district's personnel manager, said confidentiality is important to applicants who haven't informed a current employer about seeking a job elsewhere.

Perhaps, but when a job applicant asks taxpayers to supply a salary, the public's right to know trumps the individual's right to privacy.

Other public agencies deal with this exact scenario every time they make a new hire and manage to keep the public in the loop.

School districts release the names of people who make the final cut in a search for a new superintendent, as do city councils when looking for a city manager.

The library district should be no different.

It's not only fair to the taxpayer, but it also can be an important part of the vetting process. No one is going to step forward with concerns about a candidate who has never been identified.

People want transparency from their government. Those footing the bill deserve to be engaged and informed.

In this case, the board members named a quality candidate to the position. The vote was unanimous, and we'd likely concur that it was the best choice if we'd been privy to the process.

To be clear, we are not criticizing the board's choice.

We are, however, disappointed with the process.

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